Google Pixel 4 XL vs iPhone 11 Pro Max


These are two of the best phones of the year: the Google Pixel 4 XL and the iPhone 11 Pro Max, but what are the differences and which one should you go for?

Design

When are we getting that iPhone with USB-C?

First things first, though, let’s compare the design of these two: both use glass with a soft matte finish on the back which feels very nice to touch, plus this finish keeps fingerprint smudges away. The stainless steel side on the iPhone feels a bit more premium and it’s also the slightly heavier phone of the two, while the Pixel feels a bit more airy, but in terms of actual size they are about the same.

The physical buttons are on the side, but we noticed that the large power button on the iPhone is easier to find and it’s one little convenience that you’ll appreciate. You also have the mute switch on the iPhone, which you don’t get on the Pixel. Both are IP68 water protected, so they will survive a few drops of rain or if you spill a liquid on them, which is a great thing.

On the bottom, you have the universal USB-C port for charging on the Pixel, while the iPhone still goes with a Lightning connector. And this really is just annoying: USB-C is everywhere and it’s a pain that Apple sticks with its own proprietary connector. Lightning cables are more expensive and the ones that Apple makes break easily.

Speaking of annoyances, there is no headphone jack on either one and you’d need a dongle for wired headphones.

Display



In my opinion, the one feature that makes flagship these days stand out from cheaper phones is display quality and these two are an absolute joy.

Both have OLED screens and both look incredible. Pixels used to have sub-par screens just a couple of years ago, but the Pixel 4 XL really is an amazing screen, with very nice color balance and excellent viewing angles. The Pixel also looks a bit sharper thanks to its higher resolution.


Performance

The iPhone might have the upper hand in benchmarks, but the Pixel feels faster

Which one is faster in daily use?

Apple has always been the gold standard for a smooth performance, but this year, the Pixel feels like the faster phone. This is mostly because gestures finally work well on the Pixel, but also because its screen refreshes 90 times per second, while the iPhone one refreshes 60 times per second. Everything seems to move smoother and faster than before, while the iPhone feels smooth, but slower.

This is a perfect example of a situation where specs don't tell the full story: in benchmarks, the iPhone is the faster phone and it has the superior chip, but still, it doesn't respond as instantly and swiftly as the Pixel.

AnTuTu is a multi-layered, comprehensive mobile benchmark app that assesses various aspects of a device, including CPU, GPU, RAM, I/O, and UX performance. A higher score means an overall faster device.

Higher is better
Google Pixel 4 XL
413946
Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max
456786


Interface

Radars might sound cool, but they are nothing but a gimmick at the moment


The Pixel is also a joy to use because it gets the small things right: take the Live wallpapers for example. They are extremely well made, even that Pikachu one is a ton of fun, and the Apple one feel a bit boring, honestly.

However, when it comes to functionality iOS has a few features that are missing on the Pixel: there is no native screen recorder, for example, an extremely useful feature if you want to record just a part of a video; then Dark Theme is available on the Pixel but instead of automatically turning on at night, you have to enable it manually every single time which is just… stupid.

Oh, and Motion Sense, that futuristic technology using real tiny radars in the Pixel 4 XL? It might sound cool on paper, but in reality, it has little use except for skipping songs and even with that we found that you would often accidentally switch to the next song when you move your hand above the device. And... this just became annoying very quickly, so we had to turn it off after a couple of hours of use.

We won’t go into the whole Android versus iOS thing, I bet you are well aware of the limitations of the closed file system in iOS.

Biometrics



The Pixel 4 XL is the first phone made by Google that uses a 3D face recognition system, similar to the one we are now used to seeing on iPhones.

However, there is one big problem with this new system on the Pixel and that problem is that while the system is extremely fast, it is completely unsecure. It will unlock your phone even when you have your eyes closed, an absurd situation that allows anyone to just point your phone at your face and have it unlock. You can be sleeping and someone can just point the phone at you and it will unlock. We have no idea how this got approved by Google, but it's a terrible decision in terms of security. The company has promised an update that will add the option for face unlock to only work when you are attentively looking for it, but it really should have been this way from the very beginning.

Face ID on the iPhone, on the other hand, requires you to attentively look at it to unlock and is the proper, safe way to do face recognition. But yes, the Pixel is the faster of the two as it also uses the radars to understand better when you have raised your phone and instantly unlock the phone.

Cameras



So what about the cameras?

Put shortly, the iPhone has a bit more versatility with its triple camera system that supports an ultra-wide camera, while the Pixel only has a regular and telephoto shooters, but no ultra-wide angle one. Google says it doesn't consider it an important feature, but we beg to differ as we use the ultra-wide camera quite a bit and it can give you some truly amazing shots.

Image quality


There are a few trends that we can see in the photos: first and most obvious is that the iPhone photos look brighter and consistently come out with higher exposition. We would say that they are a bit overexposed, while the Pixel goes a bit in the other extreme with photos that appear a bit underexposed. The perfection is somewhere in the middle. One area where we find the Pixel has the clear advantage is with white balance as the iPhone insists on taking pictures with a yellow tint to them, while the Pixel has a more natural white balance.


Portraits


In this particular photo, the iPhone clearly did better as the Pixel could not differentiate between the hair of our beautiful model and the books in the background, but we have seen the iPhone struggle similarly when there are glasses involved. So this photo is meant to be an illustration how portrait good is good on both phones, but far from perfect and you'd get the occasional mistakes like the one here.

Night Mode


The addition of Night Mode on the iPhone is probably the biggest new feature and we are glad to report that it works quite well. You don't need to select a Night Mode manually, the phone just knows when it's dark enough and uses the mode automatically. Still, we see the same issue with a yellow-ish tone to all photos, it's not a dealbreaker, but it's also definitely not quite accurate. The Pixel does a slightly better job at night even if sometimes the iPhones gets the better detail. The Pixel photo looks well balanced with a good color balance. And while the Night Sight on the Pixel was among the first on the market, we wish Google took a page off Apple's book and allowed it to kick in automatically rather than having it all-manual.

Selfies


You see some clear differences in the approach to selfies these two phones take: the Pixel has the more contrasted photo that is also a bit darker, while the iPhone has a slightly overexposed shot.

Battery Life

The iPhone beats the Pixel for battery life, but the Pixel lasts surprisingly long for gaming

The iPhone has the slightly bigger battery and it also lasts longer: for browsing and social media, the iPhone outlasts the Pixel in our testing by a significant margin. And then, for YouTube video streaming, the iPhone lasts nearly 9 hours while the Pixel only goes for 7 hours and 17 minutes. These are two of the things people do most commonly, so overall, you will be getting longer battery life with the iPhone.

Surprisingly, for 3D gaming in games like Fortnite and Minecraft, the Pixel lasts a really long time: a whopping 8 hours and 20 minutes compared to 5 hours and 15 minutes for the iPhone.

Both support fast charging, and both also have wireless charging on board.



Prices

The Pixel might not be cheap, but the iPhone is downright expensive

Starting at $900, the Pixel 4 XL is clearly an expensive phone, but it's nowhere nearly as pricey as the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The base iPhone model starts at $1,100, which is $200 more than a comparable Pixel. And then, if you opt in for more storage, those upgrades cost a lot too, but you do have the option to go all the way up to 512 gigs, while on the Pixel your maximum capacity is 128GB.

Finally, we should say that previous Pixel phones have quickly seen their prices cut by a couple of hundred dollars shortly after their launch and we expect the same thing will happen this year. So yes, the Pixel is the better deal, but if you wait out for a deal, chances are that you can get it at an even better price.


Conclusion



Summing it all up, the Pixel 4 XL feels like the fastest, most enjoyable Android phone out there, and also the one with the best camera. But how does it compare against the iPhone?

Well, the iPhone beats it in terms of battery life, video recording quality, and that stronger iOS ecosystem plus the ability to pair it with the popular Apple Watch, AirPods and other accessories is not to be underestimated.

It's hard to recommend one over the other, but if you want to save a few bucks and value low-light photography, as well as prefer the open Android ecosystem, the Pixel is the one you should get. If money is no object, the iPhone will give you that extra battery life and the reliability that comes with iOS. Your choice.

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19 Comments

1. MsPooks

Posts: 235; Member since: Jul 08, 2019

You guys get a lot of flack as Apple shills (I don't really understand why), so it feels like you're being more complimentary to the Pixel than it deserves. I'm no Apple fan, but I'll say it: in this comparison, the iPhone is the easy winner.

2. Vega007

Posts: 92; Member since: May 18, 2017

I've never understood why they get so much flack either. As an unbiased person that uses Android and iOS interchangeably, I think their concluding statement is pretty accurate. I think both phones are great and basically go with the one that uses the software you prefer.

4. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1172; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

You don't understand the flack they get especially Victor, probably because you haven't been here long enough lol. That being said, it was a very fair comparison and I'm not a fan of either phones. I'm using OnePlus and can't wait to switch back to Samsung lol. Note 11+ ;)

6. TBomb

Posts: 1662; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

You've been a member for a long time Zeus... wow. I do agree, I think the comparison is about as fair as you can get. Yes, you are comparing the Best iPhone to the Best Pixel, and the iPhone has some advantages, but I think the author takes into account the advantages may not be worth the $200+ cost differential of the devices. Value is within the pocket of the beholder, and I think the author captured that quite fairly.

3. ZEUS.the.thunder.god

Posts: 1172; Member since: Oct 05, 2011

Kudos to Victor for an unbiased comparison. I'm not the biggest fan of his iPhone reviews but he deserves credit for this comparison. Great work man.

5. Vancetastic

Posts: 1754; Member since: May 17, 2017

I want to like that Pixel, but that battery life just kills it for me.

14. Georgio

Posts: 294; Member since: Nov 21, 2016

Trust me ; the battery life on the pixel 4 xl is great!! I had the phone for for over 2 weeks ; and the phone is really nice. I love it! That comes from someoane who had samsung galaxy note series(7;8) and quite a few iphones(I just sold my iphone XS) sony phones etc

7. waqarzec

Posts: 77; Member since: May 09, 2013

Nice Review mannnn.... It doesn't seems to be a phonearena comparison.

8. bitwiser

Posts: 30; Member since: Sep 28, 2018

Faceunlock issue is so overblown, it is plenty secure. I could care less if my wife opens my phone while I'm sleeping or dead! LOL If you are that worried you can long press the power button when you go to sleep and face unlock is disabled (or quite doing shady things!!! LOL)...simple and effective. I'd rather it be faster than check if my eyes are open.

9. Sanjforum

Posts: 2; Member since: Jul 23, 2019

Good Victor for an unbiased comparison and some genuine thoughts...

10. Ikechukwu

Posts: 262; Member since: Oct 03, 2011

I'll take the pixel thank you

11. ijuanp03

Posts: 655; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

First time in many articles have I seen an unbiased review from PA. This is an honest review as it can get. Although I somewhat disagree with the portrait mode part or at least have uploaded the picture where the iPhone struggles with people wearing glasses. Anyhow, I hope this is the standard of PA articles moving forward. Good job.

13. m32198

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 05, 2019

This has been the first review that I have read that was not just click bait. Very fair and honest. I was considering buying the pixel 4 xl but just can't justify the upgrade from my 3 xl

16. Muklee

Posts: 8; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Another issue with the Pixel that it bends very easily.. So there is a significant difference between the build quality of these phones.

17. photo3

Posts: 30; Member since: Mar 11, 2016

As a iPhone 11 Pro Max owner, the yellow photos when ever the lighting is lower is pretty bad. I read and see reviews where the sharpness is good, but when I look at photos I take, once you blow them up on the computer they always seem a touch out of focus. Had the same focus thing with my xs. max. You get photos pretty equivalent to pixel, but I prefer cooler photos and also the 2xl photos I took two years ago have a little better crispness. Apple does offer more consistent quality apps, really good features, like the Apple TV remote automatically popping up on the phone when I turn on my Apple TV. Customer service and brick and mortar store are second to none. LastPass integration works better also. That said I hope to get the 4xl on sale, and get back that camera and assistant. Hoping by then more bank apps and such work with face unlock, which I much prefer to fingerprint sensors.

18. oliviamia039

Posts: 18; Member since: Nov 13, 2019

both mobils were on the same level. The pixel even loaded some apps faster.

19. inFla

Posts: 179; Member since: Aug 17, 2018

No comparison made on build quality, software bugs and resale value. I am an android fan but the Pixel is a far inferior phone.

20. Mrmark

Posts: 413; Member since: Jan 26, 2013

Why compare the Pro when you can just compare the iPhone 11 vs Pixel 4XL because I will pick the Pixel 4 XL over the Pro any day $699 64XL Google vs iPhone 11 Pro Max 1099 64GB that is a $400 dollar difference. The funny thing is that reality shows that the Pixel 4XL is supposed to be compared to the Pro iPhone like article does, for justice concerns, although cameras are the same minus the ultra wide angle(Google). Just commenting on both sides of the tech communities article manipulation. Ohhh and hit that like button if you agree! You see what I did there with this comment! Bias and misrepresentation :0 )

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Pixel 4 XL
  • Display 6.3" 1440 x 3040 pixels
  • Camera 12.2 MP / 8 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 64 GB
  • Battery 3700 mAh

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